John Martyn, who as a solo performer (just himself and guitar) has opened an American tour for Yes and will soon open another for Eric Clapton, is an underrated but magnetically engaging artist. His breathy, slurry, ebb-and-flow tenor -phrased as if he were a human saxophone- makes him sound like no one else. He's not pop, nor jazz, nor folk, but an inimitable merging of all three, sort of a male Joan Armatrading. He is always interesting and this album is no exception, from the Mike Oldfield cinematic mysticism of Big Muff to the throaty funkiness of Couldn't Love You More, backed by Steve Winwood's Yamaha organ. Winwood's own last album was a disappointment1 but he is his versatile self here, tastefully complementing Martyn's sensuous singing and mature, thoughtful lyrics. Martyn delves into unrequited love, anonymity ("I'm a smiling stranger, smiling stranger every day") and reconciliation to a world he sees as crazy but not intolerable. He has no answers, but the directions in which he points are well beyond most of his contemporaries.
— Steve Morse
1 Steve Winwood's eponymous debut solo studio, released June 1977, three years after the break-up of Traffic. The album did not do well commercially.
This review was published in The Boston Globe on Thursday 6 April 1978, on page 52.
Best pop albums
At the end of the year, Steve Morse included One World in his list of 'Fifteen best pop albums of '78'. He ranked it as number 12:
"Martyn's mystical folk-jazz was out of place when he opened on Eric Clapton's last American tour, but its essence should not be overlooked. Martyn's willowy vocals and Echoplex musings are without peer."
John came just behind Live from Burning Spear and just before Some Girls by the Rolling Stones. Neil Young got the number 1 with Comes A Time.